Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

GoodReads: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. 

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Source: Edelweiss
Expected publication date: 02/09/14


The Jewel, with its intriguing premise had the potential to be amazing, but sadly it failed in execution.

My main issue with The Jewel was the romance. There was a horrible case of insta-love between Violet and Ash, the love interest. Violet is immediately attracted to him, after having one conversation (in which she discovers their mutual love for music) she comes to the conclusion that he "gets her", and not long after they are kissing and saying the L word. In the pages that follow all Violet can think about (when she should be thinking about more important thing) is Ash, she is literally consumed by the guy. There is no build up or tension, they hardly no each other yet they're confessing their loyalty and love to one another. Then there's the jealousy that overcomes her when Ash interacts or even looks at another girl, and the constant thoughts about how attractive he is and whether he is looking at her. This is what I mean when I say it was an all-consuming romance:
Ash's face appears in my mind for the hundredth time in the last few hours.

I've never thought much about kissing, but the idea of Ash's lips against mine-I giggle.

I wonder if Ash will think I look pretty.

It's only been  a couple of hours since I saw him, but he's somehow even more handsome than I remember. My whole body feels like it's blushing. 
Seriously, it goes on in this vain pages and pages after their first meeting.

Up until the point where she meets Ash, Violet herself wasn't a terrible mc, but having said that she wasn't one I particularly connected with either. She was a bit bland, much like the writing, in my opinion. There was a lot of repetition and clich├ęs.

Overall, I was rather disappointed. 


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

GoodReads: An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.

Russia's powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn't the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon.

Yulia is a survivor. She won't be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won't let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won't become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia.

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Source: NetGalley


As well as being a fan of YA historical fiction (Poppy and Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper, Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys) I am a huge fan of books that feature spies. In particular, I love the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and the Cherub series by Robert Muchamore. For a long time now I've been wanting to read a YA book that features a female mc who is a spy (yes, yes I know about the Gallagher Girls series, but I don't think it would by my cup of tea). So, it's no surprise that I was excited about Sekret.

Unfortunately, though, Sekret wasn't quite what I was hoping it would be. The opening of the book was promising, there was intrigue and it was obvious that Smith has done her research. She painted a vivid picture of the Cold War and Russian culture.  However, as the story progressed I became bored. This is because the pacing was excruciatingly slow, and a million questions were hopping around in my head, half of which I had hoped would have been answered by the time I reached the half way or three quarter mark.

I never actually became too attached to any of the characters, Yulia included. When I don't feel anything towards the the characters, more importantly the mc well then there's obviously something wrong. They weren't, in my opinion, very well developed. And as for the romance I guess it could be called sweet, but honestly I wasn't really touched by it. If I'm honest, it was almost forgettable.

All in all, Sekret was not for me, and I still hold onto the hope that one day there will be a YA book with a female spy as the mc that will wow me.


Monday, 23 June 2014

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

GoodReads Summary: On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

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Expected publication date: 08/07/14


Despite flying through The Queen of the Tearling, I had some issues with it. My main issue was with the mc, Kelsea. She is described as being plain, and her constant whining about this really got on my nerves. I mean, Alina from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is also described as plain, and although she has moments of insecurity at least she doesn't go on about it. Further to this, some of the things Kelsea thought and said rubbed me the wrong way. Here are some examples:
How could a woman who looked so old still place so much importance on being attractive?
Um, what? This made me so angry, because so what if you're old and care about how you look? Personally, if I saw an old women like that I would think 'good for you' not why is she even bothering.
Kelsea saw now that there was something far worse than being ugly: being ugly and thinking you were beautiful.
I mean, really? Ugly people can't have confidence, is what you're basically saying.

There is also this point in the book where basically orders her guards to snatch a tiara of a noble she does not like the look of. I did not care for this judgmental side of hers. Furthermore, at another point she demands that her guards go rescue her collection of books, despite the fact that 1) the journey would be very dangerous for them and 2) she can't afford to lose any of them. As a book lover myself, I get wanting to save books, but would I put lives at risk in order to retrieve them? No. There's being stubborn, and then there's being a stupid brat.

Despite all this, however, Kelsea wasn't completely unlikable. I admired her strength and her desperate need to save her land. Plus, there are six more books to come, so there is definitely room for development. 

Although there is no romance in this book, Kelsea does have a crush on an intriguing and mysterious character. When she meets this character he bluntly points out that she is too plain for him, but as the story progresses it seems he is continually surprised by her. Although if his growing interest/respect for her is of a romantic nature it's hard to tell. Even though I did not care for Kelsea's crush on him, because in my opinion she did not know him well enough to form such a crush, I'm curious to see which direction their relationship goes in future books.

Apart from the guy Kelsea is crushing on, another fascinating character is the Red Queen, a tyrant who rules the nearby land of the Mortmesme, and who I guess is the ultimate villain.

The world building in the The Queen of the Tearling is a little weird, and although I didn't have a problem with it I can certainly see why some might. The strange fantasy world melds together three concepts: historical, future, and modern.  For example, there's mentions of castles and horsing riding, but also of more modern stuff like the Harry Potter series. It's confusing and undeveloped (I have many questions, like how did the world come to be the way it is?), but as I said before there are 6 more books to come, so hopefully the world building will be built upon and better explained in future books.
The Queen of the Tearing is far from perfect. However, if you were to ask if I'm going to pick up the sequel  my answer would be yes, because even though I can't say I loved it, I did enjoy it. 

Fun fact: Warner Bros and Harry Potter producer David Heyman, have acquired film rights to the entire series and Emma Watston has been cast as Kelsea.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Stacking the Shelves (#20)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga over at Tynga Reviews.
The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel 
My mums colleague at work was giving away some books she no longer wanted, so my mum picked this up for me. It's a hardback and in great condition. Sounds cute, too!


The Jewel by Amy Ewing
This was rather disappointing. My review will hopefully be up soon.

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
As expected the sequel to The Burning Sky was AMAZING.


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith 
I can't wait to re-unite with Cormoran and Robin!

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
I was so nervous about this book, but fortunately I ended up loving it. :D


The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop
This was a fun and quirky little read. You can find my review here.

Have you read/do you plan to read any of these books? :)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Mini review: The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

GoodReads: THE ISOBEL JOURNAL is no ordinary snapshot of a contemporary teenage life. A charming and vivid narrative scrapbook of the eighteen-year-old author's sketches, mini-graphic novels, photographs and captions, it captures her wit, her observations and her creative talent as she takes us through the three central themes in her life: 'Love', 'Friends, Art and Otters' and 'Me'.

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Source: NetGalley
Expected publication date: 01/08/14 (US)


The Isobel Journal is a cute and quirky little graphic novel. It mostly consists of sketches (drawn by Isobel herself) and photos with captions containing random thoughts and musings. It follows 18 year old Isobel's teenage years.

It covers four central themes: random facts about Isobel, friends/art/college/otters, love and breaking up. There were funny moments and relatable moments: a lot of the time I found myself thinking "I like that too!" or "I do that too!" If I had a print copy I would have taken photos of my favourite pages, but since I only have a digital copy I decided to include my favourite captions instead: [edit] The publisher tweeted me saying that a selected few pages are available on their website, so I've inserted them below (click to enlarge).

 "A lot of the time I live in my own world"

" I love tea... I don't want to be one of those people.... but it is great!"  
"Occasionally I daydream"
" My favourite thing to do is probably lying in bed or eating snacks...or both at the same time"
"Fresh sheets are so great" 
I can so relate to all of these things. Anyway, to conclude: The Isobel Journal made me laugh, smile, and reminisce about my teenage years. I will definitely be buying a print copy of this book!


Mini review: Peacemaker by Marianne De Pierres

GoodReads: Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park - the world's last natural landscape, overshadowed though it is by a sprawling coastal megacity. She maintains public safety and order in the park, but her bosses have brought out a hotshot cowboy to help her catch some drug runners who are affecting tourism. She senses the company is holding something back from her, and she's not keen on working with an outsider like Nate Sixkiller.

When an imaginary animal from her troubled teenage years reappears, Virgin takes it to mean one of two things: a breakdown (hers!) or a warning. Dead bodies start piling up around her, so she decides on the latter. Something terrible is about to happen in the park and Virgin and her new partner, U.S. Marshall Nate Sixkiller, are standing in its path...

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Source: NetGalley


Going into Peacemaker I had no idea what it was about. I enjoyed Pierres' Night Creatures trilogy, so I thought more from Pierres, yay! *request* I should, however, have been more caution, because as has been proved in the past just because I enjoyed a series/trilogy from an author doesn't automatically mean that I will enjoy their future releases.

One of my problems with the book was the writing style. The grammar was very awkward, not to mention annoying.

Then there's the undeveloped world building/setting. Peacemaker is set in future Australia,and even after finishing the book I had many questions.

The characters were pretty meh, too And their names, oh my gosh: Virgin (I kid you not!) Jackson, Nate Sixkiller, Heart Williams, and Bull Hunt...*laughs* Some might call the mc kick-butt, but I just found her to be maddeningly frustrating. 

Overall, it was just not my cup of tea. Moral of the review and note to future self: do not request books without reading the premise first.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Stacking the Shelves (#19)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga over at Tynga Reviews.

This is a collective haul featuring books that I've received over the past few weeks.

An excerpt from Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 
This has made me even more excited about the release of the actual book! So scared about how it will conclude, though. I really hope Mal and Alina end up together.

For review: (Unsolicited)

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Despite the hype I wasn't really planning on reading TWC anytime soon, but since I received a copy from the publisher I figure why not pick it up after I've finished my current read. Hope it's as good as everyone says!


Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little
I've already read and posted my review of Forbidden here. I am in love with the cover!


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 
Currently in the middle of reading this.

Have you read/do you plan to read any of these books? :)
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